How to Support & Positively Impact Sustainable Workplaces 

The earth’s average temperature has been increasing steadily from the 1800s. However, the rate of change has doubled over the past few decades, rising to 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit. 2022 was the sixth warmest year on record, with the 10 warmest recorded years occurring since 2010.

These global changes in temperature and weather patterns impact human and planetary health. Extreme temperatures can lead to illness, and a greater occurrence of natural disasters has major effects on populations.

We’re in a whole new world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists saw an unprecedented decrease in carbon emissions for developed countries. This revealed the potential that sustainable practises could have in the reduction of climate change and represented what workplaces can do to change, and their impact on the planet.

The pandemic set off a major change in how business owners engage with their employees. Sustainable actions support their health and well-being but they are also critical in supporting an efficient working environment.

AI, Automation, and Sustainable Workplaces

For many organisations, implementing automation plays a large role in satisfying employees and creating a better environment and economy. Though the pandemic put many things on pause, technological advancements allow for better monitoring, more efficient operation and less stress for employees.

We are now fully immersed in the fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 technologies such as 3D printing, augmented reality, automatic filing, cloud communication, virtual recruitment and data compilations are now best practise in many industries.

With automation and artificial intelligence, you can create more sustainable practises that benefit your business and employees.

Creating Sustainable Workplaces in a Post-Pandemic World

Working from home became standard practise for companies worldwide during the pandemic. Since 2022, many European and Asian employees have returned to the office, while the U.S. has more employees in permanent remote positions.

The global buildings industry creates more than 34% of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. Failing to meet the 2050 net zero goal will have disastrous effects on the world. From traditional offices to manufacturing plants, there is a new emphasis on efficient and sustainable practises to mimic the advances seen during the global lockdown.

For many, the unexpected opportunity for renovations allowed offices to create environments that reduce carbon emissions and produce a happier and healthier workforce. Others kept to hybrid schedules to save money and resources after taking a hit. These changes often reduced their costs and emissions, necessary to comply with global changes.

The Environment Act 2021 introduced new regulations for businesses in the United Kingdom that affect how they operate, including fines for the number of emissions released by company vehicles, taxes on plastic packaging and incentives for recycling and implementing reusable products. The European Union produced legislation designed to guide businesses into more sustainable practises.

A recent report by the Asian Development Bank recommends governments across the continent to create incentives and regulations to significantly cut emissions from businesses. In the United States, the Inflation Reduction Act dedicated almost $400 billion to cut carbon emissions across the country. These are just some of the post-pandemic environmental guidance provided since the pandemic.

As companies around the world make changes to comply with new guidance, changes in employees and consumers are also influencing workplace change. In a UK survey, seven out of 10 adults said that the pandemic made them reevaluate their health. Campaigns to live better lifestyles are ongoing, and putting pressure on companies to reconsider their sedentary office spaces.

The global lockdowns did more than take a toll on physical health. Data shows a drastic increase in depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. These issues are particularly prominent in young adults who are now entering the workforce and looking for sustainable options.

Automation Benefits for the Environment

Automation doesn’t just make life easier for you and your employees. It also plays a significant role in reducing emissions.

Countries around the world aim to be at net zero for carbon emissions by 2050. Introducing automation into various industries provides a large boost towards that goal. A Carbon Brief analysis shows we’ve already cut greenhouse gas emissions by half since the 1990s.

Energy Data Management Systems (EDMS) provide real-time information on use, allowing companies to recognise when they use an excess amount of energy and make appropriate adjustments. Automation also leaves less room for human error, preventing the majority of wasted materials.

When business leaders have confidence in their organisation’s longevity, it makes it easier to cater to employees’ needs and desires.

Using Sustainable Automation For Employee Health and Safety

These technologies don’t replace a dedicated workforce. Instead, they allow workers to focus on more important tasks and work to create and perfect new ideas.

Schneider Electric CEO Michael Martinez explained the benefit to Automation World:

“Having one common platform allows users to operate a facility throughout its manufacturing processes—from raw materials all the way to finished product, packaging, and shipment. That enables users to think about how to optimise skill sets. Being able to democratise innovation means that we can have skills and tools that more people have access to.”

Combating the Great Resignation

These issues put pressure on companies. With completely remote opportunities more accessible than ever, mass exoduses from offices that began during the pandemic continue globally even today, with millions of workers leaving their jobs for more money, a better work schedule, or to explore other interests.

Professor Anthony C. Klotz, who coined the term “Great Resignation,” told the BBC that it’s not necessarily a company’s fault.

“It’s not just about what’s happening in an industry. And that kind of supports the notion that people are looking for a change coming out of the pandemic or they’re not afraid to completely switch to a new chapter of their career,” he said.

COVID-19 changed everyone in some way. Many people have a new appreciation for their well-being, which is often heavily influenced by their full-time job. This appreciation also extends to the climate. More employees are searching for sustainable workplaces because they believe those workplaces care more about the environment and themselves.

Using Sustainability to Support the Environment and Employees

Implementing sustainable practises can encourage your employees to stay loyal to your business. That’s because the physical and mental impacts of a sustainable, automated workplace are undeniable. When employees feel their best, they achieve higher productivity rates, creating an environment of success.

A Better World

There’s an increasingly narrow window for positive change, which means it’s necessary for all workplaces to use government regulations and recommendations to make the difference. Your business doesn’t stand on its own. It’s part of a cycle with other workplaces, the government and the public. Everyone in the cycle must play a part in ecosystem stewardship, reducing emissions and creating a healthier, more equitable planet.

According to the latest data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, at least 3.3 billion people are living in areas “highly vulnerable to climate change.” The mortality rate for disasters in those areas is 15% more than in areas of low vulnerability.

While Europe is a major contributor to global emissions, Africa, Asia and Central and South America are the areas primarily taking the hit. Globally, climate change is contributing to food and water insecurity, faster spread of pathogens and loss of ecosystems. Extreme weather events force people out of their homes and native land, permanently scarring communities.

“Impacts on some ecosystems are approaching irreversibility such as the impacts of hydrological changes resulting from the retreat of glaciers, or the changes in some mountain and Arctic ecosystems driven by permafrost thaw,” the report states.

The longer this goes on, the more likely it is to hurt you and your employees — if it hasn’t already. Now is the time to act.

Improved Air Quality

One of the best and easiest ways to make a difference is by improving your air quality. When you work with more sustainable materials, you release less toxic and volatile organic chemicals into the air, helping employees stay healthy and reducing your carbon footprint.

Automation can decrease employee interactions with dangerous chemicals, helping them breathe easier throughout the workday. Less stress on the lungs means less stress on a worker’s mental state as well, contributing to fewer cases of burnout.

If your work leads to a stuffy office environment, consider adding plants. Palms, spider plants and peace lilies are just some plants effective at removing impurities from the air. A little greenery can also boost your employees’ spirits. Choosing local plants can help cut your company’s contribution to emissions from plant transportation. Also takes less energy to care for them.

These small changes make a large difference, producing cleaner air not just in the office but for the world.

Natural Light Exposure

We all need a little sunshine. If a renovation is on your post-pandemic to-do list, consider adding more windows. They reduce the need for excess energy use and create happier, more productive employees.

Sunlight is free, while artificial lighting can take up a significant amount of your energy bill. Natural light is also good for the body and soul, connecting to improved mental and physical health outcomes.

It’s so beneficial that the NHS recommends light therapy to treat mental health conditions, including seasonal affective disorder. Chronobiologist Dr. Victoria Revell says the artificial bulbs are no replacement for natural rays.

“Light is critical for our health and wellbeing,” Revell told Netdoctor. “Ensuring that we receive adequate light levels at the appropriate time of day benefits our alertness, mood, productivity, sleep patterns and many aspects of our physiology.”

Giving your employees time to step outside can also help with this exposure.

To take things a step further, consider installing solar panels. The panels virtually eliminate carbon emissions from energy use and save you money on your overhead. You can use the extra funds to create more greenspace for your workers.

Encourage Team Collaboration

The use of automation provides more time for team members to collaborate and connect with one another. These face-to-face opportunities fulfil a social need that remote jobs can’t replicate.

Socialising is important for brain health and many of us were starved of it in lockdown. There’s evidence that being around others in a positive environment can benefit you as you age. Since your employees spend a significant amount of time at work, opportunities for collaboration are a way to provide those interactions.

Aside from dusting off their socialisation skills, your employees can better perform when bouncing ideas off of one another. Combining strengths can lead to strong solutions that minimise employee frustration and maximise company results.

Everyone must work together to improve equity around the globe. Improving social relationships is key to that progress, which translates from in-office productivity to out-of-office advocacy.

Provide Career-Building Education

When implementing automation for sustainability, you also provide learning opportunities for your employees.

These new technologies aren’t going anywhere. When you provide your workforce with experience, you help them move higher up the corporate ladder. Taking the time to train your employees on various systems can help you maximise efficiency and provide invaluable career skills.

Taking the time to educate your employees on greener practises will help them thrive in a greener world, both inside and outside their careers. Creating a workforce with these skills encourages future use of sustainable practises.

Teach Sustainable Life Skills

Incorporating these principles into your workplace teaches your employees how to implement them at home. Utilising plants, recycling and making the most of natural light are skills that can better them and their families. When you create happier and healthier employees, they can create happier and healthier households.

Your team can share various ways they live sustainably and how it saves them money, lowers their carbon footprint and helps them live better lives. Encourage them with the sustainable choices they can make each day such as conserving water, purchasing local goods, reusing items, recycling waste and nourishing their land and local wildlife.

Embracing Sustainability in the Workplace

There are many things you can do to support sustainability in your workplace. Embracing automation, creating a healthier office environment through air quality, adding natural light, providing education that explores efficiency advancements in your field and encouraging communication and collaboration allows you to create a work environment that supports and positively impacts workplaces within your organisation and beyond.

Remember that you don’t have to do everything at once. Taking one small step can make a huge difference in your company’s carbon footprint and your employee well-being. Organisations that do not change are harming themselves and others.

Author: Rose Morrison – Managing Editor, Renovated

Photo credit: Austin Distel on Unsplash

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